Cardiff City fell to a 3-1 defeat at Nottingham Forest on Saturday, despite a spirited second-half fight-back.
Forest went ahead mid-way though the half when Andy Reid curled home an expertly taken set-piece from just outside the area. Two minutes later, Daniel Ayala made it 2-0 with a bullet header from a corner.
The third goal of the game would be telling; unfortunately it went Forest's way as Billy Sharp struck home his first goal of the season just eighty seconds after the restart.
City found a way back into the game with a smart finish fourteen minutes from time by Heidar Helguson, and had Tommy Smith's effort not struck the post just a few moments later, a famous comeback may have been on the cards. As it stands, and thanks in part to a fantastic individual performance by Lee Camp in the Forest goal, City slip to second in the table on goal difference behind Leicester City.
Nottingham Forest kicked-off the game, attacking towards the Cardiff City fans for the first half. It was Forest who created the first attacking threat of the game, but a cross into the box from Chris Cohen went safely out for a Cardiff City goal kick.
Shortly after, good link up play from Cardiff saw Kevin McNaughton with the ball on the Forest byline, and his resulting cross had to be cleared away from five yards out by a scrambling Forest defence.
Seven minutes into the game Forest had a corner as a result of a heavy touch from Andrew Taylor. The corner was struck, in-swinging from Cohen and forced Marshall to make a diving punch to clear.
On fourteen minutes we saw the first long throw from Aron Gunnarsson; the initial launch was cleared away safely, but after the ball was played back forward, a cross from Craig Conway was met by Don Cowie whose header drifted wide of the far post.
The next ten minutes saw neither team gaining control of the match, and a number of balls being played through to both keepers caused no problems.
It was not until the twenty-sixth minute mark that we saw the first clear cut chance. It saw the Reds gaining a free kick right on the edge of the penalty area after McNaughton was deemed to have unfairly won a header. Reid calmly struck the free kick into the top left corner with the ball finding the net after striking the under side of the cross bar and falling behind the white line.
GOAL: NOTTINGHAM FOREST 1 V 0 CARDIFF CITY (REID, 26 MINS)
Forest took great heart from the opening goal and continued to pile the pressure. It took a matter of a couple of minutes for the Reds to add a second. A delivery from Greg Halford from the right corner of the box was gladly met by the head of Daniel Ayala, who nodded into the bottom right corner of the Cardiff City net.
GOAL: NOTTINGHAM FOREST 2 V 0 CARDIFF CITY (AYALA, 27 MINS)
After two goals in quick succession, Cardiff expectedly picked up the tempo and started to get hold of possession for a long period for the first time in the game. In that time Helguson saw his twenty yard effort sail over the bar, and a ball into the box from wide left struck, by Conway came to nothing.
A challenge from Matthew Connolly on the stroke of half time resulted in the first yellow card of the game and another dangerous free kick for Forest on the left hand side of the area. It took a brave clearance in the six yard box from Connolly to put the ball out for a corner as the on-rushing Forest players were ready in waiting to make it a three goal cushion. Forest continued to turn the screw and had a number of corners to show for it. During one of these , Simon Cox gained himself a booking after a skirmish with City keeper David Marshall.
HALF TIME: NOTTINGHAM FOREST 2 V 0 CARDIFF CITY
SUBSTITUTION NOTTINGHAM FOREST: RADOSLAW MAJEWSKI ON FOR SIMON COX (45 MINS)
As the sides came out for the second half, it was clear that Cardiff City needed to start brightly and get themselves back into the tie. Right from the restart the Bluebirds were looking to take the initiative with a run down the flank from Conway. But it was Forest who captured the initiative first.
After some quick feet and great ball retention from the fresh legs of Radoslaw Majewski, the substitute calmly slotted the ball through the static City defence. It was met by Billy Sharp and neatly placed past Marshall into the bottom left of the Scottish stopper’s goal.
GOAL: NOTTINGHAM FOREST 3 V 0 CARDIFF CITY (SHARP, 47 MINS)
Cardiff immediately went up the other end of the field, yet again looking for a reply. After a number of headers inside the penalty area the ball finally fell to Don Cowie who shot wide of Lee Camp’s goal. Cardiff maintained pressure and after some patient build up, found themselves with a corner. The corner from Whittingham was swung in and Mark Hudson headed agonisingly wide at the far post.
Twelve minutes into the second half saw the third booking of the game and Nottingham Forest’s second. Guedioura found himself in the book after what the referee deemed a dive.
SUBSTITUTION CARDIFF CITY: CRAIG NOONE ON FOR CRAIG CONWAY ( 61 MINS)
Nottingham Forest started to frustrate Cardiff City by playing ‘keep ball’, with every pass being cheered by the home fans. With the game slowly drifting away from the Bluebirds, Malky Mackay introduced Noone to try and change their fortunes.
SUBSTITUTION CARDIFF CITY: RUDY GESTEDE ON FOR ARON GUNNARSSON (65 MINS)
It was then the turn of Gunnarsson to make way for the towering presence of Gestede, the City boss clearlylooking for a different outlet up front. The Reds appeared to be going through the motions as the game approached the seventy minute mark, Cardiff even with the substitutions, still struggling to gain any momentum.
SUBSTITUTION NOTTINGHAM FOREST: GUY MOUSSI ON FOR ANDY REID (73 MINS)
With sixteen minutes to go, Cardiff were handed a life line when Helguson scored his fifth goal of the season. An attempted clearance from the Forest back line looped in the air, it landing at the feet of the Icelandic forward who struck it home. This goal was the trigger for a complete momentum change. It looked like Cardiff had a second just before the last ten minutes when Tommy Smith hit the upright after jinking his way into the area and releasing a shot. Lee Camp was then forced to parry away a Gestede and Noone effort straight after.
The game really opened up with Cardiff pushing for a comeback. But holes appeared in the City defence and allowed Cohen to almost make it a fourth from close range. Marshall saved, the ball was cleared and then Marshall was forced to save again from a shot from over 30 yards out by sharp.
SUBSTITUTION CARDIFF CITY: JOE MASON ON FOR KEVIN MCNAUGHTON ( 80 MINS)
The last ten minutes saw another ray of hope glimmer for the Bluebirds, as Guedioura picked up a second yellow for an unnecessary lunge in midfield. Cardiff really piled on the pressure, Noone forcing an impressive stop from Camp low to his left which again frustrated the travelling contingent.
SUBSTITUTION NOTTINGHAM FOREST: BRENDAN MALONEY ON FOR RADOSLAW MAJEWSKI (89 MINS)
As the board went up indicating there would be no less than five minutes to be added on, Tommy Smith played a long range delivery into the box; Gestede rose and his looping header forced Camp to pull off another impressive stop to tip it over the bar. Time ran out for the Bluebirds, having left themselves far too much to do in the second half.
FULL TIME: NOTTINGHAM FOREST 3 V 1 CARDIFF CITY